March 10, The Second Day of Lent
March 10, 2011 § 1 Comment
“Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see. Through their faith, the people in days of old earned a good reputation.”
– Hebrews 11.1, 2-
Some of us may be familiar with this verse, having heard it given as a definition of the concept of “faith.” If we opt for this understanding, our reading for the next several weeks would go something like this: “So-and-So, having properly understood and grasped this concept of faith, did this and that.” While this understanding may be helpful for some, it unfortunately boils down “faith” into a rational concept that we must wrap our minds around.
As we read of men and women of God in coming weeks, it will become evident that the author of Hebrews wishes to draw our attention not to the rational ideas about religion that these people held, but rather to how they lived lives of faith. In faith. Through faith. By faith. It may be better to not read Hebrews 11.1 as a definition of faith, but rather as “a description of what authentic faith does and sees” (J. Wesley Adams).
We do not regard these women and men as heroes because they held correct ideas. Rather, we marvel at them for the lives that they lived; lives that demonstrate greater hope and bear witness to deeper truths. Lives that show unwavering devotion and next-to-impossible trust. If we could pull some of these people aside and ask them how an understanding of faith helped them through an event, we may very well hear: “I’m not sure; I couldn’t understand anything at that point. I could only believe.”
St. Augustine said: “Understanding is the reward of faith. Therefore, seek not to understand that you may believe, but believe that you may understand” (In Evangelim Johanis tractatus, 29.6) Often, understanding does not come on our schedule; we’re left in the dark far more often than we’d like. Fortunately, this does not prevent us from living in faith. Moments such as these are part of the story; moments when we have no choice but to live from our belief that God is in control. In so doing, our lives bring glory to God and point to Him; not because we have it all figured out, but because we believe that even though we don’t, God does.
As we journey through Lent together, may we live by faith.
“Dear Lord, thank you for your Word that speaks of men and women living lives that are true to you. In my moments of pain, suffering, and uncertainty, remind me that you reign over all. Encourage me with your presence when I don’t understand; help me to live from a heart of faith rather than an understanding of an idea. As I journey in community with other Christians, enable me to encourage them to live by faith as well, so that your church may bear witness to you. Amen.”